Ashkan Kooshanejad | Instrumentalist


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Ashkan Kooshanejad | instrumentalist: Albums, Songs, and News, Pitchfork

British-Iranian instrumentalist

BIOGRAPHY To say Ash Koosha is an Iranian-born, a London-based electronic musician is barely to scratch the surface of what this remarkable man is all about. A synaesthete who sees colours as sound, a virtual reality pioneer, a software humanist, a political cause celebre, a former rock musician and student of classical music, there are as many facets to him as there is texture in his fractal, complex, remarkable music. Born Ashkan Kooshanejad, Ash split his early years between Tehran and Frankfurt, where his father worked in the printing industry.

The Iran of his early years was, he says, in a “destructive” phase, where music, in particular, was hard to come by, but his parents made the most of their time in Germany to stock up with cassettes of everything from early Genesis to Japanese classical music.

Moving back to Iran in the 90s, he secretly watched MTV by night and bought smuggled cassettes and copies of Rolling Stone on the black market. As the nineties progressed and regulations relaxed a little, Koosha both started making “noises” on his Commodore 64 computer and, enamoured of the music of Jack White, learnt to play guitar, bass and drums. As the internet was introduced and deregulated, he was hit by a flood of music without being given clear guidance about how it fitted together, so that he made his own connections and found his own synchronicities. Reading a piece on the MIT blog about microtones and granular synthesis was, he says, like finding “a calling.”

He dropped out of school and, in 2004, began studying composition at the Tehran Conservatory of Music, a satellite of the Moscow Conservatory, meaning that he learnt as much about Tchaikovsky as the Persian classical tradition. The only student working predominantly with computers, he devoted a lot of his energy to studying the physics of sound and acoustics, as well as participating in hours of jamming with the other musicians there. In parallel, his love of rock music saw him join the band Font as a bass player. Playing heavy rock, the band would perform underground gigs to only fifteen or so people. Any more than that risked catching the attention of the Ministry of Culture and the problem that would entail. Koosha learnt exactly what those risks were in 2007.

Having been asked to play at a UNICEF related cultural event at the Kings Palace, the government proceeded to cancel it at the last minute, instead Font put on the gig in the Tehran suburbs, which was raided by commando’s abseiling in from helicopters. Everyone was arrested, including Font, and Koosha spent three weeks in jail. On his release—and with Font now in effect shut down—Koosha formed Take It Easy Hospital, a new indie/electronic/pop band, with friend Negar Shaghaghi. Iranian Yellow Pages

They built up a big following on myspace and, off the back of that, were invited to play the In The City Festival in Manchester. The Kurdish-Iranian film director, Bahman Ghobadi, got in touch around the same time, asking them to collaborate with him on a film about the Iranian underground music scene. The film, No One Knows About Persian Cats, loosely based on their own experiences, won the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 2009. But Iran was entering another “destructive” phase, with a new crack-down on music. The band’s drummer was arrested and beaten, and the Iranian-American co-writer of the film, Roxana Saberi, was charged with espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison. Kooshanejad and Shaghaghi were in the UK playing further dates and decided they had no choice but to stay, seeking asylum.

From 2010 onward — making a living providing soundtracks to Iranian films commissioned and delivered over the internet